published Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Volkswagen sales up 40% over year ago

Powered by the Chattanooga-made Passat along with the redesigned Jetta, Volkswagen sales climbed more than 40 percent in November over a year ago, the automaker reported Thursday.

Passat sales hit 6,018 in the month, making up over 20 percent of VW’s total of 28,412 vehicles sold in November, figures show.

Jonathan Browning, VW of America’s chief executive, said in Chattanooga that Passat sales are ahead of plan, though he wouldn’t say how much.

“We’re pleased with the momentum Passat has got in the marketplace,” he said.

In just a little over two full months on the market, Passat sales are already above the number VW sold all of last year, the VW official said.

Volkswagen was among five major automakers boasting double-digit sales gains last month in the U.S. market, where overall November sales were up a strong 14 percent over a year ago.

In Chattanooga, new car registrations in November jumped by more than 30 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the Hamilton County Clerk’s Office.

Chrysler, Ford, Nissan and Hyundai were among the companies reporting nationwide sales increases of more than 10 percent last month.

Buyers were lured by good deals, improving confidence in the economy and the need to trade in older cars, officials said.

“Consumers are just starting to say ‘It’s time to start spending money again,’” Larry Dominique, executive vice president of data for the automotive website, told the Associated Press.

The 994,721 vehicles sold in the United States last month represented the fastest sales pace since August 2009, when the government offered big rebates for drivers to trade in their gas-guzzling clunkers, according to Autodata Corp. Sales would hit 13.6 million this year if they stayed at the same pace they did in November, according to AP.

Car companies expect sales to improve as people who held on to cars during the economic downturn return to the market. The average age of a car on U.S. roads is a record 10.6 years, according to Polk, an auto industry research firm. And the rate of cars that are scrapped has surpassed sales for several years.

Paul Ballew, a former GM chief economist who works for Nationwide Insurance, notes the level of pent-up demand is unprecedented.

“Unless this recovery is derailed, vehicle sales will continue to move upward,” he said.

Volkswagen is capitalizing on the sales rebound with its diesel-powered version of the midsize Passat sedan, which Browning said is selling “extremely well.”

He cautioned that it’s still early, but it appears the Passat is experiencing “strong appeal in the marketplace” and among dealers.

Regarding the potential of a second model for Chattanooga, Browning said there’s still a lot of work in ramping up the Passat and no decisions have been made.

He said there are opportunities to fill in market gaps, and there could be a vehicle positioned between its large Touareg sport utility vehicle and its small Tiguan SUV.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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